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Vitamin D Deficiency

Vitamin D deficiency has sky-rocketed in the United States and with so few food sources of vitamin D, it is important to know how to obtain an adequate amount.

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is present in some foods, but it is also produced in the body when the rays from the sun hit the skin and convert inactive vitamin D to the active form. Vitamin D promotes calcium absorption in the gut and helps to maintain adequate calcium and phosphorous levels in the blood. Vitamin D is also important in bone growth and remodeling, as well as in cell growth, neuromuscular and immune function, and in the reduction of inflammation in the body.

Insufficient vitamin D levels lead to thin, brittle and misshapen bones called rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults. Over time, insufficient vitamin D levels lead to osteoporosis in older adults. New research indicates that vitamin D deficiency also plays a role in heart disease, diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure, multiple sclerosis, as well as chronic pain and depression. Anyone can be at risk for vitamin D deficiency, but the groups most at risk include breastfed infants, older adults, people with limited sun exposure, people with dark skin, those with fat malabsorption, people who have had gastric bypass surgery and those who are obese.

A simple blood test can determine if vitamin D deficiency is present. In general, those with vitamin D levels above 50 nmol/L have sufficiency vitamin D to prevent adverse effects. Vitamin D levels less than 30 nmol/L indicate the potential for rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults. Levels between 30 to 50 nmol/L are considered inadequate for bone and overall health.

Preventing vitamin D deficiency requires eating food sources of the vitamin, obtaining adequate sun exposure and/or taking a dietary supplement. Food sources of vitamin D include the flesh of fatty fish (salmon, tuna and mackerel), fish liver oils and small amounts of the vitamin are found in beef liver, cheese and egg yolks. Most milk is fortified with vitamin D, as well as some breakfast cereals, orange juice, yogurt, and margarine. Sun exposure can provide 100% of vitamin D needs. However, the use of sunscreen and limited time outdoors significantly reduces the production of vitamin D in the body. Dietary supplements can be an excellent option, but it is necessary to look for the “USP” symbol on the supplement bottle to ensure that the stated amount of vitamin D is actually in the supplement.

Current Recommended Dietary Allowance for Vitamin D:

Age Male Female
0 – 12 months 400 IU 400 IU
1-13 years 600 IU 600 IU
14-18 years 600 IU 600 IU
19-50 years 600 IU 600 IU
51-70 years 600 IU 600 IU
>70 years 800 IU 800 IU

Research suggests that the current RDA for vitamin D should be increased for all age groups. It is important to discuss vitamin D levels with your physician to determine the appropriate course of action to prevent or treat vitamin D deficiency.

***Source: National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements***
http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional

Questions? Please call your Hospice of Huntington Dietitians:
Kellie Glass RD, LD (606) 615-2585 or Amy McFann RD, LD (304) 690-5063